Achieving substantial reductions in offshore wind’s cost of energy should not be viewed "as a vague political threat, but as a commercial opportunity," according to RV Ahilan, president of leading consultancy GL Garrad Hassan.
Speaking at the consultancy’s annual offshore wind conference in Hamburg, Ahilan urged his audience to learn from cost overruns and to embrace standardisation and other methods of transforming offshore wind from a high-cost sector into one with far lower capital requirements. "If we achieve real reductions in cost we will be buying ourselves a sustainable future," he said.
Addressing concerns within the sector that standardisation of manufacturing and services risks "undermining innovation", Ahilan argued the opposite, that greater standardisation is needed in order for innovation to flourish. "We need a framework, or we’ll flounder," he said, adding that more attention should be given to fine-tuning the sector’s design standards.
Speaking with Windpower Offshore, Ahilan emphasised the significant impact that standardisation – indeed, commodification – could have on driving down offshore wind’s cost base and ensuring that the enormous wind resources available at sea are harnessed.
With a background in ocean engineering for the offshore oil and gas industry, Ahilan believes that offshore wind can learn from its more established sister sector, but that there are significant differences that must be acknowledged. The primary difference between the two is the challenge facing offshore wind to develop more efficient methods of installation. Whereas offshore oil and gas installs a relatively small number of large structures at sea, offshore wind players must find ways of achieving rapid, multiple installations. "Automation and economies of scale" will be the solution, from Ahilan’s perspective.
There could be benefits to adopting offshore oil and gas’ "alliancing" approach to offshore engineering projects, said Ahilan, but he warned that the key to successful alliancing is, once again, standardising and formalising procedures in order to allow them to be repeatable.